Mass Effect 3: Should Bioware Have Caved?
It makes me sad to see the ending change.
If there’s one thing this whole debate over Mass Effect 3′s ending has shown, it’s that the internet holds power. Vast power, like an epic fireball spell that incinerates everything in sight until only charred ashes are left to blow in the breeze. This power was held by thousands of internet users recently who – after a massive, relentless campaign of moaning about Commander Shepard’s send off – managed to get Bioware to give in and announce this week that they’re creating an additional piece of story content for Mass Effect 3 designed to give gamers the closure they seemingly crave.
Let me tell you first of all where I am. I’m just like most of you – I’ve played through every single scrap of Mass Effect several times, read the novels, indulged in things I missed by reading them on wikis and even persuaded my fellow ManaTank writer Eric Pederson (by way of gentle prodding) to get off his backside and finally play Mass Effect. In other words, I’m a bit of a fan.
When I first started playing Mass Effect 3, I started boycotting the majority of the internet after seeing complains start to arise about the ending (I was about halfway through at that point). Even so I managed to spot a few people’s moans by posts on Twitter, and a it filled me with a sort of cold dread to see so many people complaining about the ending, so much so that throughout the entire game I was sat wondering to myself what the hell was so bad about it.
After finishing it, I’m still wondering. I know I’m in the minority here but I really do believe that Mass Effect 3′s ending was both dramatic and a fitting end for Commander Shepard and I applaud Bioware for not taking the obvious route and having a ‘save-the-day’ moment and everything being happy. Good narratives don’t work like that people. Remember Return of the Jedi and the Ewoks? Remember how rubbish and stupid that was? Good, that’s what Mass Effect 3 would have been like if everything was fine and dandy. Except it would have been Hanar instead of Ewoks.
My own thoughts on the ending aside, should Bioware have really caved in and decided to produce another extended piece of story for the Mass Effect universe? If you hated the ending, you’re probably screaming ‘YES!’ at your computer screen right now, scarcely taking in a word of this story as you’ve been blinded by the massive internet snowball and jumped firmly on the ‘I Hate Mass Effect 3′s Ending’ bandwagon. If you are one of those people, just stop and think for a second. Again, think of Return of the Jedi. Everyone really hates that movies’ ending (I’m sure there’s probably one or two people who don’t, who no doubt own a collection of Ewok stuffed toys) but no matter how much people moan about it, that will forever be the ending of Return of the Jedi as it is how the creators envisioned it.
I’m Commander Shepard…and You Changed My Story.
By changing Mass Effect’s ending, we’re essentially forcing Bioware to give us some kind of closure. The best narratives don’t do this – the best narratives instead leave you to make your own interpretations, giving you the ability to essentially decide exactly what happened for yourself. I firmly believe that the internet is mostly to blame for this sudden desire for change, as we’re becoming increasingly used to having whatever we want served up to us on a silver platter at just the click of a button or a few keystrokes. This mentality is what drove the change of Mass Effect’s ending – most of us now simply want all of the information presented to us at once, and imagination, alas, is slowly dying.
I will now handily hide this next paragraph as I’m going to discuss the specifics of the ending. To see it, highlight it.
When Mass Effect closed, I was left on the edge of my seat. Commander Shepard had just been fully merged into the Citadel, synthetic life was being generated across the galaxy and some of the characters were about to start a new life on a beautiful new planet. The Reapers were gone, Shepard had saved the day by making the ultimate sacrifice and there were stark consequences for the rest of the galaxy after the destruction of the Mass Relays. I then made my own judgements on what happened to the characters. I don’t need to know exactly if Joker and EDI had little mech-human babies. I don’t need to know if Liara leapt off a cliff because her beloved man-Shep was gone, seemingly forever. Instead I revelled in the amazing journey I’d undertaken that concluded with a total sacrifice fitting for my Paragon totally badass hero Shepard. I loved it, I really did.
It all makes me wonder if Bioware giving in to everyone was the right idea. It just doesn’t seem like a good thing to me, as I believe we shouldn’t force those who write stories to give us what we want, we should instead just get what we’re given and then make our judgements based on that material. It’s the same mentality that calls for another season of Friends, or for Lost to continue on. It simply shouldn’t happen – those stories have concluded, we know that things will happen in the future that we don’t know about but we’re content because the narrative has been told, came full circle and ended with an emotional bang.
If Friends or Lost’s creators did cave and produced more stuff, chances are it would be a shell of what we remember. It would simply be a cheap way to extend the series, and would completely ruin the narrative that they’ve created. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen over here. One of the most popular British comedies (Only Fools and Horses) ended with a great storyline that saw the main characters (who were always poor and dreamt of wealth) becoming millionaires and then walking off into the sunset to live their lives. Then they decided to bring it back, and it completely ruined that fantastic ending just for the sake of padding things out and dredging up another couple of episodes for Christmas.
Mass Effect 3 is to suffer the same fate. We really don’t need to know the promised extra developments. You might even end up hating it even more than before. If Bioware really does go ahead and make everything all sugar and rainbows I may possibly vomit till I pass out, as that is not the ending the Mass Effect series should have.
Even in a game that’s completely rife with choice like Mass Effect has been, we’re still confined to the narrative. Part of the argument behind the ending changing is that there wasn’t enough choice behind it, and that each option only had minor repercussions to the story. Same thing happened with both Mass Effect 1 and 2, I believe. Destroying the Collector Base at the end of 2 didn’t have much effect at all in 3, and sacrificing the council in 1 didn’t really have that much effect either other than a few scenes playing out differently. See in a game with choice, we’re still bound by whatever’s coded in to the system. Bioware can only sate the appetites of so much by tying up the narrative to a game with this much choice, and in order to do this they narrowed the scope and made sure that the ending was impactful and tied up as much as was possible (as everyone’s game would be too drastically different to do otherwise).
So that’s my stance on things. Bioware shouldn’t have caved and decided to give us more story for Mass Effect just because people weren’t happy with the ending because it both ruins the narrative experience, and there’s every change it still won’t tie up the story in a satisfactory way for each and every person’s Commander Shepard. You can dispute it all you want below in the comments, but I really think that this decision is a shockingly bad one for the sake of narratives and Bioware simply shouldn’t have listened to the internet.